Battle of the Northeast!

There’s currently a pile of exciting races happening in the NHL, both at the Conference and Divisional levels. Now, I may be biased as a Habs fan, but I honestly think the race in the NorthEast is outstanding:

Toronto – 61 pts. 48 games

Ottawa – 60 pts. 47 games

Boston – 58 pts. 48 games

Montreal – 56 pts. 48 games

FIVE points separating 1st from 4th with virtually even games played (max 6 point spread if you give the Sens 2 points for the extra game)! That’s incredible.

So, the burning questions are as follows:

1) Which team will begin to fizzle first?

2) Will the Leafs bolster their defense?

3) Will the Sens get some toughness up front?

4) Will the Bruins stick with their goaltending or grab another defenseman?

5) Will the Habs add size up the middle?

Does the answer to question 1 directly relate to questions 2 through 5? I believe so. Most teams are still a bit leary to make any big moves if they don’t have to absolutely do so. So, I think if one of these teams drops 4 or 5 in a row, which could theoretically drop you to the bottom or out of the conference depending on your current placement, a move will be made.

Some of the latest rumours/fan’s wishes are:

T.O. – Gonchar (plus everybody else and their dog).

Sens get Laraque.

Bruins?? Already picked up Slegr. There were Sean Burke rumors at one time. Any thoughts?

Habs – not a lot of real rumours, but a lot of fans would like to see Jason Arnott in the CH, including myself.

I’m excited about this race. Even more exciting is the race to see who makes the first ‘big move’.

I hope it stays this tight right to the final wire!


36 Responses to Battle of the Northeast!

  1. Gravel says:

    I really believe in a Dallas-Montreal trade. Jason would fit in Montreal roster and Dallas are struggling at this point.

  2. nocuphere says:

    It’s the tightest in hockey right now. We’ll see if the habs and bruins can continue the pace. I’m not sure the bruins and habs have the depth the sens and leafs have, and an injury to one key guy on either club could really kill. Just my opinion though. Both teams are known to fade through the last two months of the season.

    Ottawa are sound throughout right now. Another Vaclav Varada type player would be an asset. Chris Neil is a very underrated hockey player. He’s a smart tough guy who rarely makes a mistake, and comes to play every night. I don’t think Laraque is the answer.

    Leafs just need one able bodied d-man, maybe a Bougner or a Brendan Witt type guy, and stay off the DL

    Boston, a good dark horse this year only because they can look so dominant, and other times, mediocre. Raycroft for real? The rangers can make anyone look good. Scary team though.

    I like the canadians, they’ve changed their offensive system quite a bit, and are exciting to watch now. A big guy down the middle like Arnott and avoiding injuries to there 2 or 3 key guys and they’ll be tough. Don’t know if they can handle the physical punishment they would recieve playing someone like Toronto or Philly, but a team like Tampa or Atlanta that slips into the number 3 seed could be beaten by the canadians.

    Anyway tight race.

  3. Habfanforever says:

    2 years ago Boston finished top in NHL and where big and tough. Habs pulled through, beating them in 6 playoff games. The beauty of the NHL today is that anything can happen, especially in the playoffs.

  4. Gravel says:

    According to me, Montreal is better than 2 years ago.Having Ryder-Ribeiro and Souray in more, it changes Hab’s Face.

  5. kidhenry1 says:

    Realistically, I think that Montreal can’t continue to overachieve for the rest of the season, and Boston have never been great finishers. I think that when all is said and done, not that many players will be moved because teams are shying away from taking on extra salary, and the giants of the conference (i.e. the Devils, Flyers, Senators) will move up into prime position. All 4 in the northeast hunt should make the playoffs, though.

    Also, a good race is at the bottome between the Ranger$ and Islanders. Rangers fans are chanting for Glen Sathers head despite the fact that he has them closer to a playoff bid then Muckler, Lowe, or certainly Trottier ever has. And the islanders are doing their streaky thing again. And to make matters more interesting, the southeast loser will be thrust right into the center of the race as well. Look for at least one good team to be left out of the Eastern Conference picture.

  6. Habfanforever says:

    don’t forget that Begin and Markov are injured. when they come back, I think it will be a good boost for the team. I would say that when Markov returns, Rivet should be traded to make room for Komisarek. I’m thinking maybe Georges Laraques

  7. habsoverserver says:

    When you look at goal differential, which in the age of getting a point for losing a game, means a lot, you see that the Senators are just head and shoulders above the other three teams and that Montreal is a lot better than Leaf fans realize.

    team goal differential

    TO +14

    Ottawa +56

    Boston +6

    Habs +20

    Habs are about to make a deal for an agressive right handed shooting third line center. I predict they get Tyler Wright from the BlueJackets for Hossa and or a pick.

    Ottawa finishes first, no question. The rest does not matter, since it’s a question of beating the Flyers or Devils for the final home ice advantage in the first round.

  8. turninglane says:

    Is it finally happening?

    Jagr to the Rangers?

    Is it going to happen?

  9. jacosta says:

    With all of the injuries acquired by the leafs, it may still hold to be a good thing. Guys that are older can’t play all 82 games of the season and still have gas in the tank. Maybe with all of these guys off now, and coming back in the second half, theseinjuries may prove benficial to the leafs. All a team needs is to have key guys go down near the end of the season to ruin a playoff run. Depth is needed that is why the leafs may be more buyers then traders come the deadline. You know pick up solid guys, not stars but solid acquisitions for third or fourth rounders, from teams dumping guys that may be free agents or have one or two years left by the end of the year. Guys that other teams will want to dump to clear the way for the next cba.

    And that is where the leafs, although old have an advantage. Many of their players are done after this season anyway. Alot of their contracts are up. Therefore picking up a few guys that make two or three mill will still not hurt them next CBA.

    Teams like Ottawa may want to keep their young talent for just such a scenario. Knowing that they will be under budget and still talented when hockey starts again.

    Some people balked at Quinn for some of the signings he did. But one thing he did do was make alot of the contracts expire at the end of this year. That is why Guerin and Holik weren’t signed they all wanted long term deals. Now look at Dallas, they are trying so hard to get rid of Guerins contract and there will be no takers.

    Look for the leafs to make one trade a solid defenseman. ie Bougner, Hedican, maybe even Gaulthier. Then also look for them to pick up some one for low picks like Wesley again from carolina who’s contract is up this year and Carolina has to offer up for nothing.

    I really don’t think Boston will do much. I feel that team is worse then the leafs when it comes to ownership spending.

    Ottawa will be at the top. Montreal I think will fizzle down the stretch with the youth they have.

    In all I think that Ottawa and Toronto will be battling it out til the end. Boston and Montreal will take the 7th and 8th playoff spot.

    Sorry Rangers, even though you may get Jagr (Headline sports is talking about a potential deal right now) you will not make the playoffs again and you will be so screwed if there ever is a cap.

  10. Pock says:

    I’m not a fan of any of the teams in that division, but I will say i’m very impressed w/ the way the habs are playing. Some very nice highlite goals it seems whenever they play. I’d like to see them play the sens right now w/ both teams as hot as they are, Montreal may be give them a little more then what people think. The only thing that is going to slow that team down right now is the injury bug.

  11. habsoverserver says:

    How are the Habs overachieving? Theo is playing the same as he did two years ago. There is still no one on the team with in the top 20 in points in the NHL. No Hab will score 30 goals this year.

    Sheldon Sourray is scoring a few goals but that is a result of how the powerplay has changed for Montreal. Keep in mind, Brisebois is way down in goals.

    Who on the team is going to slow? There are six players with double digit goals on the team. The offense is very balanced. It can withstand a player having a poor season. Montreal’s top three scorers from last season, Zed, Koivu and Perreault are all off their prior year pace. What happens if these guys pick it up in the second half?

  12. Serdy says:

    To me, this is the best, and toughest division in the NHL. All these teams deserve a lot of credit especially the Habs for pulling themselves together this year. Even Buffalo isnt as bad as I thought they were going to be. But in the end, I will have to agree with mostly everyone else that T.O and Ottawa will battle it out and dont be suprised if it comes down to that last game of the season. I also somewhat agree with someone who posted earlier when they said that the leafs will be fresh once they get all of their big names back from injury. As long as they get enough playing time in.. I dont think to many are out for that much longer, like not past February except for possibly Tucker, but nobody knows right now. I have been visiting this site often, and this is my first post, hope to contribute often.

    Serd..

  13. rojoke says:

    Plus, even last year, it was usually one line hot, one line cold, and the special teams were at the bottom of the league. This year, we’re getting offence from both lines at once, the PP has risen to the top ten, and the PK is slowly rising to the middle third of the league. The team isn’t over-achieving. It’s achieving.

  14. rojoke says:

    Tyler Wright? Now there’s a name that hasn’t been mentioned in ANY rumours that I’ve seen. Points for originality.

    I think if Gainey does make a move, and I’m not so sure that he’ll be able to, it’s going to be for a top-line player rather than a third line guy like Wright, who’s more of a checker/penalty killer. Montreal’s PK has been getting increasingly better as of late, so while that may have been a possibilty a month or tow ago, I don’t believe that to be the case now.

  15. rojoke says:

    I know that I’d rather be hit with the injury bug in January than March. And they are fortunate in that they can call up guys from St. John’s, who don’t play again until Tuesday. It could also give them the ability to show off a couple of guys for a trade, either now or at the deadline. The one position they can’t afford to get hurt in is in net. If Belfour happens to go down for any length of time, that may either bring them back to the pack in the conference, or limit their playoff success.

  16. Gravel says:

    CanThe Oilers pay Rivet’s salary?

    Thats the question.But Laraque Would be great to see with begin and langdon

  17. Gravel says:

    Jason Arnott sounds Good

  18. TC_4 says:

    Yeah, Big J Arnott would fit in very well in Montreal. Jeff O’Neill is another one(people forget he’s a natural centre).

  19. markodj says:

    i’m sorry to mention it, but goal differential means very little… beating a team like pitsburgh 8-0 instead of 2-1 does nothing to prove you are a better team….

  20. Tradedude says:

    OK, I want to say something to Ferguson if he’s listening.

    GET SOMEONE INVINCIBLE!

    We have like half our team injured.

    Owen Nolan

    Alexander Mogilny

    Wade Belak

    Tom Fitzgerald

    Darcy Tucker

    Ken Klee

    Oh god there is much much more than can’t come to my mind right now. I’m surprised the two 37-year olds are still alive. Only Two people who has played the leafs full schedule up to now. And those two, Domi and Marchment, are suspension bound.

    Just get someone that can play the whole roster..good or bad…were desperate. i thot tucker was invincible but no!! Peice of (bleep) Bates has to go out there and be an (bleep)hole like everyone else on that team. Goes and High sticks him in the eye??? Thats a bunch of (bleep)! No call??? He almost lost his (bleep)ing eye! maybe tucker will wear a visor now.

    These rivalries are getting all back to me now..Tor vs. Phi (Strongly Dislike Roenick) Tor vs. Sens (STRONGLY dislike Alffy(also known as krusty the clown)) Tor vs. NYI (VERY dislike Bates). ARGH!

    Oh, and here are some players id like off the team (i know im no JFJ but this is what i suggest).

    Nik Antropov – No effort, cant skate,mr.operation

    Tomas Kaberle – Cant block, cant hit, cant play defensive, cant shoot, cant talk

    Trevor Kidd – cant save pucks, waste in roster, and acts cool whenever he wins or when eddie loses.

    Maybe we’re better off getting older guys. And yes, we neeeed defense!! Get Yushkevich if its possible to get him out of that russian contract, get hamrlik, get gonchar..we need a solid #1 Defense!!!! I dont care what you send them as long as harry neale or andy frost is not included.

    go leafs go

  21. nocuphere says:

    It was blake dude not bates, Antropov was a plus 2 last night it was creativity that brought the winning goal. When Antropov is healthy he is very effective. Playing with Joe New will only make him a better player. Give him time to add some weight to that 6’4 frame. Thomas Kaberle is our best passer, need him for the PP.

  22. TheShack says:

    How about losing to teams like Ottawa and Philly 7-1? Does that mean anything?

  23. nocuphere says:

    No not really. Leafs beat Philly last year 6-0 and

    4-0 and lost to them in the first round. Doesn’t mean a thing.

  24. matteo says:

    Goal differential can be very misleading, especially when you are talking about a Sens team that beats lesser teams 6-1 and 7-2.

    That being said, it is the single most important stat in hockey…..I know I just contradicted myself…Shaaaddduuupppp.

    All I am saying is to approach goal differential carefully.

    I agree the final battle will be the Flyer and Devils for home ice advantage and right now I have to give the edge to NJ because of Broduer. However, if Stevens doesn’t get back into the lineup then NJ could be in trouble. Of course the flip-side is also true, if the Flyers don’t get a goalie then they may aas well start polishing their golf clubs unless Esche pulls a JS Giguere….and we all know that however possible that might be, it is unlikely.

  25. habsoverserver says:

    Goal differential means something because with the OTL a team can be outscored and still get a point.

    Toronto has 26 wins 12 losses = 14 more wins than losses. The have scored 133 goals and let in 118 for a +15 differential. So their ave incremental win is by 15/14 = 1.07 goal margin. Ottawa is at 4.3 goal margin per incremental win. Also Ottawa can rest key players and still win. TO can’t.

    When does this matter most? When a team has an injury to a key player. If TO lost Sundin, they woudl probably go into a tailspin but the Sens could still win without Hossa. (Yes, this means that Sundin is more valuable to his team than Hossa and may be the better Hart candidate.)

  26. Aetherial says:

    Had it with Antropov. I think the Leafs will trade him.

    Disagree on your opinion of Kaberle.

    You forgot Robert Reichel on the injury list and that is not an insignificant one. He has played quite well this year, and is a fantastic penalty killer… teams need guys like Reichel that can play 3rd or 4th line and put up a few points, and play roles.

    Only Los Angeles has been hit as hard as the Leafs. Not even Colorado has been hit that hard.

    Keep in mind when they lost to Philadelphia they were missing 2 of their top 3(or 4) forwards and 2 of their top 3 defense and a couple other guys… tough for any team to win that way.

    This was not unexpected though. Their age made this injury rash inevitable.

  27. devfanman4 says:

    Blake’s high stick was an accident. He was going to lift his stick and missed. Things like that happen. The refs missed the call (what else is new). He should’ve gotten at least 2 for that (there’s an argument for 4 or 5 since Tucker was seriously injured). The reason why the Leafs are the most hated team in the NHL (as Sports Illustrated put it last year) is because everything is overembelished by them. After Blake’s accidental high stick, any other team would’ve just dropped it or complained to the officials about it. Instead there was pushing and shoving initiated by the Leafs after every whistle for the rest of the period.

  28. devfanman4 says:

    This is definitely the best division in the NHL right now. What a race!

    I’m really disappointed with the Atlantic Division. Sure it’s tight, but does anyone want the top spot? In their last 10 games, every team is sub-500. The Devils should’ve won last night against the Canes which would’ve moved them into a tie for 1st in the division with the Flyers, but somehow they found a way to lose. The Islanders and Rangers look like they’re trying to get out of the playoff race entirely.

  29. meetak says:

    Ottawa might need some grit , but i doubt Laraque is what they’ll go after.with varada out for the season, and Mike Fisher struggling to come back from injuries, they’ll want to have a player top step into the kind of role those two play: forechecking and penalty killing.

    As always, i think the perfect addition would be Ryan Smyth of the Oilers, but i doubt they’d trade him, or even if they did, the price would be too high ( not salary, but the players they’d want in return.)

    A cheaper alternative would be Mike Grier, a former oiler, who can play that gritty, go to the net forechecking style, but still be defensively responsable.Before he went to Washington, he was a plus 30 and averaged 30+ points /year.He’s not going to light the lamp a whole lot, but he can help keep pucks out of his own net, and he may flourish on a team with the scoring talent that Ottawa has.

    Another possibility might be Bates Battaglia, who played very well in Carolina’s run to the finals, and is also a left winger, which is where Ottawa’s need really is.

    I don’t see any blockbusters for the Sens this year, but probably some tinkering like they did last year, when they added Smolenski and Varada.

    I do think the Sens will take the northeast again, and i don’t see it being as close as many predict between the Sens and Leafs IMHO.Ottawa is just hitting it’s stride, and will keep getting better as the year progresses.They are also currently dealing with a lot less in terms of injuries,and have better depth at all positions, and over the rest of the season that will make a big difference.The guys coming back for the Leafs ( Mogilny, Kaberle, Nolan and now Tucker) will take some time to get up to speed.They might be back to 100% by the playoffs, but they’ll need it, as more than likely they’ll be facing either the Flyers or the Devils in the first round.

  30. nocuphere says:

    Overembelished?? Ley me knock your eye out, and see if you overembelish.

  31. Tradedude says:

    The high stick was intentional…it was clearly revenge for the peca hit

  32. Tradedude says:

    I forgot Renberg too but she’s untradable.

    As for kabs..ofcourse your not going to agree..and i can understand that..because he hits 40 points every year…what im saying is..he does nothing else..i used to be a fan of kaberle but he will not lift this team to the next level…

    and yes…he is wantable…same with Antropov..im fed up with him..i only like him because he’s young, he’s cheap, and he’s big…but none of those really matter if he’s always injured and is slow….trade kabs for a stronger #1 dman and antro for a defense and a forward (who rarely gets injured).

  33. kidhenry1 says:

    I do happen to call it overachieving when everybody on the team is playing solid hockey. I know you love to toot Montreal’s horn, but when some players stop putting up consitent numbers, then this team could bottom out.

  34. LondonK says:

    But what is Montreal going to give up to get them. Montreal doesn’t exactly have a star studded lineup where they can subtract from one area to add to another. Perrault is one of their tradeable guys, and his value has plummetted since last year.

  35. habsoverserver says:

    Every player who was with the Habs for the majority of last year is behind their prior pace in scoring that includes: Koivu, Zednick, Perreault, Bulis, Juneau, Kilger, Dackell, Sundsdtrom, Rivet, Brisebois, Quintal, Rivet and Markov. That’s 13 players underacheiving relative to last year. Keep in mind that the other ten players on the team were so bad that they were either demoted or bought out. Only one of them – Audette – is still in the NHL.

    The new players – Ribiero, Ryder, Dagenais and Sourray are making all the difference. Plus, Theodore is back to his old self. You can’t say they are over acheiving since this is their first try at acheiving.

    Montreal is one of the few teams with six different 10 goal scorers this year. The offense is not fantastic but also not dependent on any one player other than Theodore. So it can withstand some offensive players slowing.

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